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October 19, 2002

Israel Under Siege, Part I

Sharon’s talks with Bush may have ended with hugs and kisses, but the substance of the news stands as a stark contrast. At the moment, US-Israel relations display at the very least four areas for concern; the problematic Israel-EU relationship is a separate chapter, and the topic for tomorrow’s article (Israel Under Siege, Part II).

The First problem area concerns the impending calamity known as “two states living side-by-side”. In his statement dated October 16, 2002, about his talks with Sharon, Bush said at a press conference:

We talked about the framework for peace, the idea of working toward peace, the idea of two states living side-by-side in peace as a part of our vision. And to this end, Bill Burns, Ambassador from the State Department, is going back to the Middle East to continue to work on the process; continue to work toward achieving concrete, real, objective and measurable reforms, so that there's a peaceful future for the region.

It would appear that Israel was compelled to swallow this “vision”; a strong emetic is recommended.

Second, the ambiguous situation with regard to retaliation, should Iraq once again attack Israel.

In the foregoing press conference,
PRESIDENT BUSH: If Iraq were to attack Israel tomorrow, I'm sure
there would be appropriate response.

Q: How should Israel respond? How should you respond --

PRESIDENT BUSH: If Iraq attacks Israel tomorrow, I would assume the Prime Minister would respond. He's got a desire to defend himself.

As pundits pointed out: and supposing Iraq did not “attack Israel tomorrow ” but attacked in the context of a US war against Iraq - what then?

The AP story answers:

Bush and American diplomats are trying to line up Arab and other nations to support the United States in the event of war against Iraq.

Only a few Arab nations are prepared to make that commitment, and their support might melt away if Israel retaliated against an Iraqi attack.

Aware of that risk, administration officials quickly followed Bush's remarks by trying to draw a line between an unprovoked Iraqi attack on Israel and an attack in the event of war.

Well, there you have it: yes; and no; and maybe. And Israel is squeezed among the three.

Third, the fund transfer to the PA. The joint US-Israel statement announced:

As part of the effort to further Palestinian reform, the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Israel agreed that the Government of Israel would consider favorably the gradual return and scheduled transfer of all PA tax funds collected by Israel on the unequivocal condition that there would be full U.S.-led monitoring to ensure that these funds will only be used for the economic and civil activities of the Palestinian community and to prevent the use of these funds for terrorist activity of any kind.

Of course, the “unequivocal condition” is a farce, since any of the transferred funds used by the PA for salaries, will free up other PA funds for terrorist activities. Furthermore, the transferred funds would certainly be used to finance the bloated bureaucracy that Arafat has developed in order to ensure that a large proportion of the Palestinians depend on the PA for their livelihood.

Here again, Israel was compelled by the US to cave in.

Fourth, the weakening of Israel’s resolve and response. The Wazzani dispute, the dismantling of settlements and the impending withdrawal from Hebron with no guarantees for the security of Israeli citizens, are all examples of the weakening that is apparent to any observer. The weakness is surely apparent to Hizbullah and other terrorists, and it is surely a consequence of US pressure.

There is a bitter, ironic epilogue to this tale of pressure-and-cave. The “World” section of the Ottawa Citizen today [October 18] is headlined, “US caves in to pressure on Iraq war”. On the Web, the Sydney Morning Herald reports: “US forced to back down on Iraq strike threat”; and the AP heaedline reads, “U.S. Backs Off on U.N.-Iraq Threat”. The irony is, tht when Israel had to back down in the face of US pressure, Israel yielded to a lion; when the US backed down in the face of Franco-Russian pressure, it yielded to mosquitoes.

Contributed by Joseph Alexander Norland